Posts for 2004

The View From Within

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Viewing photographs online is becoming an everyday experience. We shoot them with digital cameras, upload them, and send the link around to friends. Irish artist, Cliona Harmey's new project, 'Twinned With' attempts to add an analog feel to digital photography by creating a make-shift camera obscura out of her Sony video camera. Taking an ordinary matchbox, punching a pin-hole in its top, and taping it to the inside of her lens, Harmey was able to take time-based stills by exposing the lens for a few seconds. Using this tool, 'Twinned With' consists of a click-through array of images of park benches, city streets and other generic spaces from Harmey's hometown in Ireland, mixed with similar pictures from other places. Since the lens diffuses image detail, the scenes created become generic and could be connected to many different places. This disassociation of place is a striking comment on the generic nature of our online photographs and how many could be interchanged with other people's shots without us noticing. - Jonah Brucker-Cohen

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Cleaning out the Closet

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What is it about things? Why are we so attached to our stuff? Lots has been written, painted, sculpted about the melancholy of objects - that inner life of things that we can't penetrate or ever know - but nothing seems to express it fully. So maybe our relationship to the object world isn't so much about things themselves but about the emotions that we attach to them. Tamar Schor's Oodala: The Secret Life of Scattered Objects offers a home for your personal detritus and the feelings and memories embedded in it all. The site is easy to use: fill out a form describing your object, upload a jpg of it, tell its story, and you're up and running. Enter as many objects as you want and keep track of them in your own file. Then link them to other people's things from all over the world and make a huge interlocking story with your cyber neighbours. There are Lonely Items and a Top Ten - this place is really addictive. And best of all, you get to snoop through other people's stuff! - Peggy MacKinnon

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Power Pills in Washington Square

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Who says new media art lacks theater? Whoever does hasn't seen Pac Manhattan, a project by graduate students in New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program. Transplanting the iconic 1980s game Pac Man from the comfort of consoles, desktops and handhelds to New York City's rough-and-tumble urban grid, Pac Manhattan promises to bridge the gap between the online screen and offline experience; it's a live game on live streets, guided by a control room abuzz with cell phones. As an aesthetic experience, work like this allows those of us who grew up with Pacman to map our nostalgia for the game on real city streets; it's a cross-pollination of retro computing with something tactical but verging on dada. Think of Cory Arcangel hacking four-square. Ever try getting a cab when you're big, round and yellow? - Lewis LaCook

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Reading Between the Wires

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For those of us who like our media theory to have poetic and dramatic flair, the online journal CTheory provides regular satisfaction. In case you missed some of the recent (or older) essays, or just want them all together in a more complete context, the editorial team of Arthur and Marilouise Kroker have brought together a collection of forty-five CTheory texts into one volume. Titled 'Life in the Wires,' the reader explores music, politics, urban space, gender, art and other aspects of contemporary, technologically saturated life. 'Life in the Wires' supplies a range of critically ambivalent feelings about our electrified and networked condition, from Paul Miller's (DJ Spooky) reflections on 'the cinematic image' to a conversation with (media theorist) Manuel De Landa on '1000 years of war.' And like any media theory book worth its weight in wires, the CTheory Reader has a companion website with supplementary materials and a series of streamed events and seminars with many of the journal's regular contributors and editors. - Ryan Griffis

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Literary Media

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In 2001, a handful of artists and programmers at Brazil's Mamute Midia responded to Italian author Italo Calvino’s incomplete 'Six Memos for the Next Millennium,' A series of undelivered lectures on 'Lightness,' 'Speed,' 'Accuracy,' 'Visibility,' 'Multiplicity' and 'Consistency' - the last of which was never written. Calvino identified his subjects as the qualities of literature that would keep it relevant in the twenty-first century; the artists subsequently identified them as key tenets of interactive media. While Calvino, who died in 1985, might seem an improbable bridge between pre-internet aesthetic questions and web art, his work is in fact marked by an immateriality, immediacy, transience and narrative not unlike the experience of many net-based visuals. Mamute Midia's CD-ROM and accompanying web site propose that even in the always fragmented and, by definition, unfinished realm of new media, we may mine the past for inspiration. Their Calvino-inspired Shockwave animations imitate literature by limiting user control over the narrative path and effectively present aesthetic trends as dual skeleton keys, which solve past quandaries while simultaneously opening doors to new ones. - Christine Smallwood

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Immersegency!

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The Digital Avant-Garde has descended on Chelsea, NYC, with an exhibit that demands that you dance, sweat, and speak in the name of art. For one more week only, Eyebeam presents Prix Selection, an exhibition of award winning works from the Prix Ars Electronica Interactive Art category. It’s 25 years now that Ars Electronica, the world-renowned institution for digital media culture, has been fertilizing and rewarding innovations in digital art, and this exhibition brings together eight interactive installations from as early as 1990, along with a comprehensive collection of archival material. Looking for a new point of view? Japanese technoartist Hachiya Kazuhiko's Inter DisCommunication Machine invites you to put on a pair of goggles, strap on some wings and see the world through your partner's eyes. Watch sparks fly off your body as you dance in Myron Krueger's Videoplace, or stay cool as you bicycle through a virtual Manhattan in The Legible City, by Jeffrey Shaw: in all cases, be prepared to move your imagination and your body. Last chance to immerse yourself in these virtual worlds before Prix Selection closes on July 18! - Ophra Wolf

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Kurtz 911

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A follow-up to its anti-terror line, which accumulates reports on civil liberty infringements, The Bureau of Inverse Technology has just launched the Kurtz shout out line in response to the persistent injustices served to artist Steve Kurtz and his collaborator Robert Ferrell. The Bureau writes the line was set up 'to capture the public outcry at the persecution of this man, the criminalization of dissent and the intimidation of academic inquiry.' By turning any phone (cell/home/booth) into a networked microphone, the Bureau encourages individuals, who might otherwise not feel authorized, to publicly state their opinions, digressions and raw sentiments on this incendiary case. All calls are immediately uploaded to an online database and available for listening, annotation and syndication. To date, the messages are alternately shy and rambling, representing individuals (like myself) trying to synthesize a response when suddenly faced with an anonymous and infinite audience. For the purposes of the current or historical listener, this developing audio archive will make the vast public reaction to the Kurtz case more visceral. Both of the BIT lines are part satire, and part experimental democratic interface: At the same time as they conceptually riff the 'participatory' structures of federally sanctioned lines like Ashcroft's 'TIPS', they galvanize a plurality of dissenting voices to speak out, and then instantaneously mic them. Call now! - Lauren Cornell

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Texty

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In Neal Stephenson's 'The Diamond Age, or A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer' the lives of three girls are shaped by an interactive book presented by 'ractors' - Nell becomes the leader of an all-girl army, Elizabeth runs away to a hacker group and Fiona joins Dramatis Personae, the possible grandchild of Texterritory v.2.3. Grace has come home early to prepare for her first date with Jerome. They have been 'texting out their territory' since meeting in a club two weeks before. Akin to Stephenson's ractors, the audience members text their responses and thoughts to the stage, helping Grace decide what to wear and, as the piece develops, to consider her possible relationship with her texting friend. Commissioned by the UK's Future Physical, a programme to enable exploration in the creative use of digital technologies in relation to the physical, Textorritory is one recipient of this year's 2004 Art Digital Era award. Combining texting, dance and music, and a planned web version, the piece may be the first message in the future of performance, where the audience, as a group and as individuals, shape the movement before them. - Bronwyn Mahoney

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Coding Around the Guillotine

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Where is there more public or more art than in New York City? And where better to pull people into the artmaking process than the city where Duchamp first pissed all over the museum wall with 'Fountain'? Exit Art's latest project, Public Execution, curated by Defne Ayas, Anne Ellegood and Michelle Thursz, runs from June 12-July 31 as a city-wide event aimed at engaging the viewer conceptually and creatively, in specifically public venues, celebrating art's refusal to be contained within a medium, edifice or critical community. In 'Site Expansion', Beth Coleman and Howard Goldkrand invite viewers to take and place art outside the gallery in the form of mirrored stickers. Serkan Ozkaya's 'What an Art Gallery Should Actually Look Like (large glass)' displays 20,000 internet-donated images to passers-by on 36th Street. In another window, Siebren Veersteeg's Dynamic Ribbon Devic, live AP news text stylized like a Coca-Cola logo scrolls across a screen, while Will Kwan's flash mob participants appear anywhere, anytime, to stage tailgate parties to broadcast a soundtrack of crowd noises and traffic sounds from their vehicles, blogging as they go. Download one of Kelley Walker's posters, manipulate it and you're an artist too. Multimedia, interactive and socially engaged, Public Execution is hugely ambitious and a next step in Exit Art's drive to stay contemporary and relevant. In your face and on your streets, public art just got more breathing room. - Peggy MacKinnon

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Culture Obscura

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Copyright law has become one of the most debated issues in the creative industries, largely as a result of networked technologies. Those parties invested in traditionally regulated forms of exchange are trying to fence off cultural products, doing everything possible to immunize themselves from the outbreak of peer-to-peer sharing and creative sampling. But many cultural producers, including artists, are forming their own responses to these delineations of creativity, seeking to open up, rather than close off, access to their work. 'Copy Art,' an ongoing, web-based collection of art works that are open to sharing, changing and redistributing, is one among many such initiatives. The show is a curatorial project of Irini Papadimitriou developed in collaboration with Metamute (the web presence of UK-based Mute Magazine), and will apply the Creative Commons non-commercial share alike license to featured artworks. 'Copy Art' launched this June at London's IBID Projects with works by Miltos Manetas, Thompson & Craighead, Critical Art Ensemble and more. Hardly a passive exhibition meant for spectators, visitors are asked to upload their own files - ideally manipulations of the works in the show. - Ryan Griffis

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